CanadaTravel diaries

Toronto: a complicated relationship

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Sightseeing in Toronto: what’s worth your time and what isn’t

Toronto was the first big city in my itinerary and, to be honest, I wasn’t really impressed. I got there at 5 am after three exhausting days spent on a bus across the Prairies with a bunch of really weird people. [It was a surreal sort of fun, maybe I’ll write a dedicated post.]

I didn’t like Toronto at first. It has all the vibes of a big American city: chaotic, loud, fast-paced. Even though some people may love this style, it’s not exactly my ideal environment. However, the more I explored the more I started appreciating it.

Here is a list of some things worth and not worth a visit (in my humble opinion of course)

St. Lawrence Market: Yes (if you have time)

It’s a medium sized market with a lot of tasty food stands and a bunch of souvenir shops. Nothing incredibly remarkable, but it’s a good spot to get lunch and buy some souvenirs (like the one in the picture).

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Waterfront from the Distillery District to Fort York: Yes

The walk along the lake is beautiful, especially on a sunny day. Start from Sugar Beach Park and keep going along the harbourfront and the marina. Stop at a kiosk to snack on a BeaverTail (no beaver was harmed in the process, it’s a dessert) and look at the ferries and pirate ships.

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If you continue straight, you’ll get to Ireland Park, home of some peculiar and rather creepy statues. Finally, head to Lake Shore Boulevard (a couple of blocks ahead turning your back to the water) and on the other side of the road you’ll see Fort York. Fort York is a war site with buildings dating from 1812-1813 when the battle took place. Entrance is free until the end of 2017, so definitely check it out! 

Kensington Market and Chinatown: No

They are very close to each other, but they struck me as chaotic and rather unpleasant. I couldn’t feel at all the characteristic atmosphere everyone so excitedly talks about. If you are short on time, I wouldn’t bother.

Art Gallery of Ontario: Yes

Wonderful art gallery that includes both the “traditional” western art we are used to and the First Nations/Canadian art. Free from 6 to 9 pm on Wednesdays, it also has a terrace upstairs that’s perfect to enjoy the sunset on the city. Highly recommended.

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Old Toronto by night: Yes

The city looks much more fascinating to me at night. Take a walk through the streets of Old Toronto, enjoy the lights and the somewhat less frantic atmosphere.

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Toronto Islands: Yes

The best part of my visit. Take the ferry from the harbourfront for a few bucks and head to the Toronto Islands. Stroll around the picturesque little streets, take pictures of the wonderful Toronto skyline, follow the animals and admire the cute houses scattered all over the place. A great destination for a picnic, an afternoon walk or a photoshoot.

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CN Tower: on a clear day

I haven’t been up because of the cloudy weather, but it’s probably worth it on a clear sunny day. If you have a couple of hundred dollars to spend, try the Edge Walk, the extreme experience of walking hands-free on the pod outside. A great fusion of adrenaline and breathtaking scenery over the city.

Royal Museum of Ontario: Yes

I liked the Art Gallery better, but the Royal Museum is undoubtedly worth a visit. It’s really big, so you may want to choose the areas you’re interested into and focus on those.

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PATH: interesting concept but avoidable (unless you’re visiting in winter)

PATH is a real underground city, which consists in a maze of tunnels created to escape the freezing Ontario winter. The concept of not having to get outside for kilometers and kilometers is pretty smart and interesting, but if you’re there on a spring sunny day, don’t bother. It’s really easy to get lost and it’s basically a huge shopping mall after all.

Pancakes: Obviously yes

Before or after your visit to the Royal Museum, stop by the Future Bistro, only a couple of blocks away, for pancakes, french toast, omelette and other delicious food. You’ll feel better in no time!

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Do you like Toronto? What are your favourite spots in the city? Let everyone know in the comments!

To check out other destinations, take a look here.

 

2 thoughts on “Toronto: a complicated relationship

  1. Loved the tips and your take on the spots! I’ll be visiting in February for a day as I have a long layover there. Short on time so based on this I’ve already picked a couple of things to do (pancakes obvi + the art gallery for First Nations stuff). Thanks for taking the time to write this, much appreciated! 🙂

    1. Hi Luisa, I’m really glad you found it helpful! I was there only for three days, but if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask! 🙂

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